International Women’s Day 2023: Advancing gender equality with technology

Feb 23, 2023

International Women’s Day: history and background

March 8 is International Women's Day, a time for us to come together and celebrate women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements worldwide.

International Women’s Day, or IWD for short, was originally known as National Women’s Day and dates back to the 1908 protests by garment workers in New York City. Many women’s rights activists had rallied behind the idea and the first official celebration took place on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. In 1975 IWD became officially recognized by The United Nations as an annual event, with yearly themes set by the organization as focal points.

Every country that observes IWD has their own unique ways of celebrating and showing solidarity. In countries like South Korea, Mexico and Poland women’s groups (and many men) march on IWD around issues such as job and pay equity, reproductive rights, education, domestic violence and even femicide. In the US, the month of March is known as Women’s History Month, dedicated to acknowledging the achievements of American women. In Canada, various organizations host IWD events, and often rallies and parades occur in major cities.

As much as it is a celebration of women, IWD is also a reminder that there is still work to be done to empower women, especially in developing countries where they are at greater risk of prejudice and gender-based violence.

The theme set by the UN for 2023, is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, which focuses on the digital age and how we can utilize technology to support the development of women and gender equality globally.

Let’s explore the ways we can use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to support women and how technology can be used to advance gender equality.

Two young girls dressed in school uniforms sit side by side on a purple swing, embracing each other and smiling.

Since 2012, World Vision has worked in six communities in the Chey Saen district of Cambodia as a response to community needs. The Chey Saen Area Programme and Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) work together to strengthen education, provide better healthcare services, and prepare youths to be productive citizens in the future. Photo: Dara Chhim

Empowering women and girls

The empowerment of women and girls has been the central focus of International Women’s Day for many years. This year the UN’s theme “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”, is aligned with the 67th session of The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). Some of the most important ways to empower women and girls include education, economic opportunities and political participation.

Education is critical for empowering women and girls. It is an investment into their future and helps them develop the skills and knowledge they need to participate fully in society. Unfortunately, women and girls in many places around the world often face barriers to educational opportunities. To achieve gender equality, this must change. Whether it be through sending girls to school, vocational training sessions or workshops—women and girls have the right to receive an education, regardless of economic status.

Additionally, a key way to support women and girls is through economic empowerment. When women have financial independence, they are better able to make choices about their lives and futures and can also invest in their families and communities. Unfortunately, women still earn less than men in nearly every country worldwide. This is known as the gender pay gap. We need to close the gap so that all people can benefit from the talents and contributions of women. How do we do that? Some of the effective steps that can help eliminate the gender gap include enforcing equal pay legislation, increasing the minimum wage, providing universal childcare and, most importantly, making the gender gap a human rights priority!

Another essential element of empowerment is political participation. When more women are involved in decision-making, we see positive changes for everyone. Women bring a different perspective to government and business, which can lead to improved policies and practices. However, despite some progress, women are still underrepresented in politics globally. We need to do more to support women's leadership so that everyone can benefit from their voices and ideas.

Considered the most forward-thinking blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action outlines an internationally agreed-upon goal to balance the political participation of women and men across nations. Having more women leaders is critical to ensuring that women are well-represented and have some agency over the political decisions that affect them.

A teenage girl seated at a desk focuses while using her laptop.

With the support of the Village Development Group, Blessing had the opportunity to attend and complete computer courses such as Microsoft Office and advanced Excel. With her computer skills, she is helping with designing and arranging worship programs at her church in Myanmar. Photo: Nyein Thaw Htoo

How digital innovation and technology can improve gender equality

So, what does empowering women have to do with technology? Digital innovation and technology have the potential to help accelerate progress toward gender equality. For example, mobile technologies can help connect women in rural areas with essential services, including health information and facilities. Digital financial services can help women access to credit and other financial services, and from there they can start and grow businesses. A few notable global technology initiatives geared toward women include: 

To harness the power of digital technology for gender equality, it is important to ensure that women have the skills and knowledge necessary to use these tools effectively. This includes providing women with access to quality education and training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. It’s also vital to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs by providing access to funding, mentorship and networks.

A female student sits beside her teacher smiling, as she receives lessons on how to use a computer.

“The computers will motivate us. We shall grow academically, and we will excel in our education ,” says 16-year-old Lisa, the class president. Lisa is one of the girls who has benefited from World Vision's donation of computers to her school in Zambia. Photo: Agatha Mali

Achieving gender equality

The digital age has brought with it new opportunities for women to achieve equality. The internet and social media have given women a platform to amplify their voices and reach a global audience. During the COVID-19 global lockdowns, lack of in-person interaction did not stop the need for activism. This is how the internet became a crucial way to stay aware and show support for change. Women are using online platforms to campaign for gender equality, raise awareness of women’s rights issues, and connect with like-minded individuals. 

The digital age has also created new challenges for achieving gender equality. The internet can be a space where gender stereotypes are reinforced, and women face online harassment. Women also face the challenge of juggling work and family life. Despite these challenges, the digital age offers a wide variety of new opportunities to overcome these obstacles. Women are using technology to level the playing field and create a more inclusive world.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has created a report called The Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot which presents traceable evidence of gender equality globally. The goal is to achieve gender equality by 2030—which for several reasons we’re not on track to reach. The report states that COVID-19 and political decisions against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are causing significant setbacks. There are major concerns around violence against women which remain high. A 2021 study by UN Women showed that in 13 countries, 45 per cent of women experienced a form of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common form being non-physical, verbal abuse and denial of basic resources. Factors such as; global health, climate, and humanitarian crises, have further increased the risks of violence, especially for the most vulnerable women and girls.

A teenage girl and older woman outside smile and embrace against a backdrop of tall green trees.

World Vision, with the support of the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration of the United States Department of State advanced the "Camina Conmigo" campaign. The campaign called on the community to build artistic spaces focused on preventing and mitigating xenophobia and gender-based violence faced by migrants in their transit through Colombia. Photo: Luis Miguel Rodríguez

What can we do to support women and girls?

There are many ways large and small to support the empowerment of women. Showing you care about their success and being vocal about supporting women’s rights is a great start. Backing initiatives and movements that advocate for women in rural areas and donating to organizations focused on empowering women is an incredible way to build a better future for women and girls. Sponsoring a child’s education and livelihood is another way to help children living in poverty and see the positive impact that you can have on helping girls achieve their dreams. 

Progress toward gender equality is being made, but to maximize it, structural barriers including; economics, laws, cultural practices and access to education must be deconstructed. Investing in women and girls is a human rights priority and should be treated as such. Although International Women’s Day is March 8, every day must be treated as an opportunity to advocate for the rights and future of women around the world.

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